Patrick Gallagher stepped onto the track of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the summer of 2013 with an unconventional piece of gear under his arm: an Ohio State football-inspired racing helmet.
The purpose of the Ohio State graduate’s helmet design was twofold: to pay homage to the Buckeyes and to raise money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Following the race, the helmet was signed by Gallagher and auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“It was my home race and I thought we could do something cool. We wanted to do something and raise money and bring it back [to Nationwide],” Gallagher said. “I thought, ‘what would people in Ohio like?’ And that’s obviously Ohio State football.”
The owner of Gallagher’s team at the time, Major League Baseball pitcher CJ Wilson, is also the founder of CJ Wilson’s Children’s Charities, an organization focused on supporting families with children with hemophilia. While that team was working to build up families in need, they were also working to build up Gallagher’s racing career.
Gallagher, a Thornville, Ohio, native, began racing at a young age. He desired to follow in the footsteps of his father Larry Gallagher, who raced cars for 20 years. He grew from driving quarter midget go-carts at 6 years old to speeding open-wheel cars by the time he was 16, earning his first national title at 17. From there, he broke into the Sports Car Club of America Pro Racing circuit and found his way to Wilson’s team, racing a Mazda MX-5.
At the same time, Gallagher pursued a degree in industrial and systems engineering at Ohio State. Despite not having the usual perks of being a student-athlete, Gallagher found his professors supportive of his racing career and willing to accommodate his schedule.
“I think the fact that it was engineering professors and racecars, they kind of got interested in that, so that probably helped,” Gallagher said. “I was just happy that I was able to go racing. If I went to class and passed all the tests, then I was going to be fine there. I just sometimes needed to take that test on a different day.”
Throughout Gallagher’s career, his father has offered endless amounts of support. He described watching his son progress in his career as “real fun” and something that he’s been incredibly proud to witness.
“I’ve seen people who, maybe their kids didn’t have the talent that Patrick did, and so to watch him with his natural talent to go right to the front of the pack, to always be at the front of the pack, was just something I didn’t expect,” Larry said. “He just had this natural ability and it made me feel good as a dad to be out there [with him].”
Nearly eight months after Gallagher graduated from Ohio State, he had his big break, taking first place at the 2017 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup. The winning scholarship was enough to book Gallagher a ticket into the International Motor Sports Association series, the most substantial move of his career thus far.
With the help of a sponsorship from ModSpace, he joined a team with Multimatic Motorsports at the beginning of 2018 and has since been trying to leave his mark on the series.
Even though he’s moved up, Gallagher said the sport still presents some distinctive challenges that are not found in other sports. During his first race in the IMSA series, his car, a GT4 Ford Mustang, broke down, setting him further back on the leaderboard. Still, Gallagher said, “It’s just part of the deal.”
“We’re pushing these cars to their limits and sometimes they’re going to break. You’re in there and you’re disappointed, but it’s really no ones fault,” Gallagher said. “We’ll just learn from it and get better and go to the next [race]. That’s the way you have to look at it.”
Despite the setbacks, Gallagher is determined to make a name for himself over the course of the season. On May 4, he will be returning to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Acura Sports Car Challenge. He hopes he can pull off a win for his hometown crowd and start climbing the ladder in the IMSA series.
“The season hasn’t started out as we wanted it to, so right now [the goal is] to win races and we’ll see where we end up at the end of the year in the overall championship,” Gallagher said. “There’s some big names out there and [I want to] put mine alongside theirs and hopefully show that I belong.”